Wayne Riley: Is There Too Much Money In Golf?

With another season coming to an end, players on both sides of the Atlantic are battling for a place on the lucrative world tours. But are the rewards for getting there too generous?

Wayne Riley An Ode To The Game Of Golf
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With another season coming to an end, players on both sides of the Atlantic are battling for a place on the lucrative world tours. But are the rewards for getting there too generous?

Wayne Riley: Is There Too Much Money In Golf?

It’s that time of year again where the FedExCup has been and gone and the Race to Dubai is hotting up.

If you made it to the Tour Championship at East Lake, or if you find yourself in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, you can say you’ve had a good season and you will have pocketed a truck load of coin.

But it’s not easy street for everybody. What about the players who didn’t have the year they anticipated?

By the time you read this, the Web.com Tour Finals will be finished. What is that concept, exactly?

Well, those who finished between 126th and 200th in the FedExCup rankings play four events with those who finished between 26th and 75th in the Web.com Tour standings, and there are 25 cards up for grabs.

It replaced Q-School a couple of years ago.

In Europe, if you don’t finish inside the top 100 on the Race to Dubai you’ll face a trip to Lumine Golf Club in Spain in November for the final stage of Q-School.

Lumine To Host European Tour Q School money in golf

Lumine Golf Club in Spain

Which is the best system you may ask?

I think they both work, but the PGA Tour shift has already had a positive impact for the European Tour, and will continue to do so going forward.

Nowadays, you simply can’t get a PGA Tour card unless you come through the Web.com Tour or play unbelievably well in a handful of tournaments you get into on sponsors’ invites, as only a few people have ever done.

You also have to qualify for a Web.com Tour card, which means Americans have started to look to Europe.

The question is, “Would I rather play on the European Tour or the Web.com Tour?”

Unsurprisingly, many, including Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein, have opted to start their careers on the European and Challenge Tours.

Brooks Koepka Wins US Open money in golf

This year's US Open winner Brooks Koepka played the Challenge and European Tours

I think a lot more Americans will try for a European Tour card over the coming years.

Not only is it a fantastic circuit taking in some great courses all over the world, but if you get a European Tour card and work yourself into the world’s top 50, you can play virtually any tournament you want to (although some restrictions do apply in terms of quantity of events you play as a non-member).

I only went to Q-School once in my career, in 1984, and I tied for 4th.

I was 22 years old and two weeks previously I’d won my first tournament, beating Ian Baker-Finch in a play-off.

money in golf

Wayne Riley won the 1995 Scottish Open which had a purse of £660,615. This year's Scottish Open first prize alone was €1.02m (£920,000)  Credit: Steve Munday/ALLSPORT

The following week I finished 8th in the Australian Open.

When I arrived at La Manga, where Q-School was then, I was bulletproof!

The issue for the European Tour is American player retention.

Look at Koepka, for example.

He played on the Challenge Tour and European Tour for a couple of years, but when was the last time he played a non-Major or WGC European Tour event?

I can tell you: 2015.

Tommy Fleetwood wins HNA Open de France money in golf

Tommy Fleetwood currently leads the Race to Dubai having earnt €3,807,265 so far in 2017

Is it really any good for the tour if Americans come over, use it as a stepping stone and then spend all their time in America after that?

We need to encourage more of them to split their schedules.

The only high-profile American I can think of who is a member of the European Tour is Patrick Reed, and he’s only played a couple of events thus far.

Koepka used the European Tour as a tool and then abandoned it.

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I’d quite like to see the European Tour telling players who have abandoned it that they can’t return to play immediately if, for example, they lose their PGA Tour card.

money in golf

Stenson pocked €4,198,016 in his 2016 European Tour season plus €1.25m for winning the Race to Dubai. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

I hope people are noting these things.

The European Tour has made it very easy for people to be members – you only have to play five tournaments a year!

The rewards for playing well these days are immense.

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I honestly reckon 50 per cent of PGA Tour players fly private.

It’s unbelievable. The money in America has got to the point now where you start thinking it’s too much in the grand scheme of things.

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Justin Thomas won $9,921,560 in prize money in the 2016-17 PGA Tour season...plus $10m for winning the FedEx Cup

And the professionals are so pampered.

At the BMW Championship, everyone in the field was given a brand new BMW to drive around in for the week!

The prize money is insane, and the great players are doubling and tripling that with sponsorship.

Even the ordinary players – and the ordinary players in America are on the same level as the ones in Europe – are extremely well off.

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You have to earn $800,000 just to keep your card on the PGA Tour!

I’m a professional golfer and I never thought I’d say there is too much money in the game, but I am starting to shake my head a little and ask where it stops.

It’s just a numbers game, a money game, and I don’t think it’ll be long until the FedExCup prize goes up from $10m. We’re just talking telephone numbers.

Wayne Riley is a former member of the European Tour and two-time winner who is part of the Sky Sports Golf Team. He writes exclusively for Golf Monthly

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